Night by Elie Wiesel

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
― Elie Wiesel

Night, first published in 1960s is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, at the height of the Holocaust toward the end of the Second World War. 

I read Night because of my earlier read Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. In that book, Sapolsky had quoted Elie Wiesel and that quote is stuck in my mind. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” It’s unimaginably deep quote. If we do not care, if we stay silent,  if we do not pick sides, the world will fall apart. I don’t think I’ve realized it before or not to full extent of that it is a great crime to remain silent. And so I was intrigued by this book.

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Night (again I listened to it) was shocking, beautiful, torturous read. It describes undescribable horros and undescribable pain. Thinking about the book makes causes me to shiver. I felt like  crying so many times but at the same time I couldn’t stop listening to this book.

Let’s start with the title. Night. It’s not just the darkness outside but also the darkness within. It’s not a night you’d imagine at first. It’s a night so full of smoke that you cannot breathe. Despair so strong that the dawn will never come. A Night that does not end.

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

People lost hope and stopped believing in their God. Because why would God be silent through all of this. As one man describes: “I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.” It’s a scary read because it also describes how people lose not just their belief but also their humanity. Cruelty becomes a new norm. People turn against one another as self-preservation takes over. Words like Brother, Father, Friend are meaningless.

“One more stab to the heart, one more reason to hate. One less reason to live.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Audio performance by acclaimed George Guidall was just a stunning one. I felt like it was Wiesel himself was telling the story as Guidall’s voice truthfully carried all the impossible pain.  My audio book also included Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and preface to new edition of the book and it made me so mad. Original version of the Night was over 800 pages long and it was cut basically every time it was published. And author had to plead and beg to get his work published in many countries. Imagine that.

I feel like I’m unworthy to review this book. I could write thrice as long review from what it already have and still I wouldn’t be able to describe this properly. I guess for me, the most important lesson from this and from Wiesel was how neutrality kills. How indifference kills.

Night touched me to the very core. It’s brutal but necessary read. One of the best reads of my life. I loved it and I will be haunted by it.

5/5 stars

How-To Read Night

1. Just 120 pages but it feels like 1000 pages long.  It’s a heart-wrenching book and even though I would like to urge everyone to read this, it’s a difficult book and I know some will find it hard to stomach. Then again, you have no right not to know.  We must take responsibility for humanity’s sake.
2.
Night is a trilogy so there are two more books to read: Dawn and Day. I’ve heard they’re more fragmented than Night but I cannot not leave them unread.
3.
It’s a beautiful book. Yes, it’s about holocaust but Wiesel’s thoughts on all his experiences are  uniquely expressed. So many lines make you stop and think.

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Have you read this? Thoughts?

Featured image: Smoke (Public Domain)

How To Steal Books

“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

The Book Thief is a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. It was first published in 2005 and it centers around the life of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old girl living in Germany during World War II. Liesel’s experiences are narrated by Death, who describes both the beauty and destruction of life. As this novel takes place during World War II, death and genocide are always present in the novel and it’s why I really liked that it was Death who was narrating the story. I think it was very fitting because especially during wars, many people are scared to die while for others it’s something they wait for, it’s a relief for them to die. And in ‘Book Thief’ he’s not distant or threatening because he explains how he feels about taking lives and how he has a heart and how he is at times even haunted by humans.

“It kills me sometimes, how people die.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Very shortly about the plot, or the beginning of the book. Liesel Meminger  is nine years old in the beginning of this novel and suffering from the death of her brother and separation from her mother as she is sent to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann. When Liesel arrives, she can’t read and is made fun of in school. She realizes how powerless she is without words, and so Hans teaches her how to read during midnight lessons in the basement, reading from the book Liesel took from her brother’s burial: The Grave Digger’s Handbook.

I think I re-read this book shortly before the movie adaptation came out. I learned to admire Liesel even more because when I first read this book (ten years ago?) I didn’t yet have history classes at school and I didn’t read that much nonfiction and I had little idea of all the unspeakable horrors of the The Second World War and the Nazi regime. And Liesel was great, she wanted to learn to read because she knew it would make her powerful and that in a way only the words could save her. Also, she was admirable because as the Nazi were burning books, she was saving them without making a distinction whether they were good or bad books. Very brave act. I also liked other characters. Rosa seemed a bit cold at first but then you realized how much she really cared about Liesel and Hans who taught Liesel to read and acted very brave during other plot twists. And of course I liked Rudy, Liesel’s best friend and neighbor who constantly asked Liesel for a kiss.

“The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Background of the author of this novel, Markus Zusak is interesting. He’s Australian, however his parents were German. The book was inspired by two real-life events related to him by his German parents: the bombing of Munich, and a teenage boy offering bread to an emaciated Jew being marched through the streets, ending with both boy and Jewish prisoner being whipped by a soldier. Of course, there are no these events in ‘The Book Thief’ but I think because of Zusak’s parents, he manages to deliver the story better, in a way you connect to the story more.

“Usually we walk around constantly believing ourselves. “I’m okay” we say. “I’m alright”. But sometimes the truth arrives on you and you can’t get it off. That’s when you realize that sometimes it isn’t even an answer–it’s a question. Even now, I wonder how much of my life is convinced.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

This book is about the power of the written word. Men rise and fall because of it and you can be strengthened or weakened by it. I was somehow very inspired by this book. And it was fascinating how even if it was kind of clear how it would end, I was still curious to know what would happen next. Very touching and very beautiful book. 
4,5/5 stars

How To Read The Book Thief
1.  
This is not a fast-paced book and if you’re looking for action, you should look elsewhere. Also, if you don’t like experimental fiction, this book might not be for you.
2. I think you will like this if you love books in general and if you read a lot and if you like historical fiction and beautiful prose.
3.
I think Book Thief is lengthier than most historical fictions (or for Young Adult genre as some liked to call it), it’s about 552 pages long.
4.
If you liked this book, there’s a lovely film adaptation directed by Brian Percival. My favorite scene in the movie is when Liesel walks into class and is asked to write her own name and instead of her name, she writes X.
5.
Personally, I really like the covers of this particular edition and the symbolism in them, one domino falls and causes a chain reaction much like with different kind of events in our lives.

“A small fact:
You are going to die….does this worry you?”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think of it?